Hitting Your Mark With a Creative Business

It’s important to create a plan for your business, but sometimes words like projections and sales goals can seem daunting. Or even worse, like they’re taking the magic out of your creative endeavor.

But the reality is that there are hard costs associated with running a company, and they can go up each year. Rent increases, employees earn raises, your cost of materials may change, and maybe that craft fair booth costs a little more this year than it did last. By planning for sales growth, you’re giving yourself a financial cushion, room to expand, and space for that magic to flow.

Let’s take this planning project one step at a time:

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Know your numbers

Maybe (like me) you’d prefer to go the rest of your life without looking your bank account balance in the eye.

It can be uncomfortable to give those numbers a cold hard look, but once you know some financial numbers, you can plan ahead with confidence.

How much did you sell last year? Start by downloading order data from your Big Cartel shop sales and any other sales channels (do you sell wholesale or use more than one web platform to sell your work?). Add up those sales numbers in a way that makes sense to you (monthly or seasonally, perhaps) so you can start to see trends.

Make some notes about those numbers for your own reference. Which type of discount or promotion generated the most sales? Which month was the slowest? Which day of the week was your busiest? How much did you sell at a specific in-person event, or leading up to a particular holiday? Did your numbers change when you sent out a newsletter, shared more often on social media, or launched a new product?

Once you’ve assessed what events or actions had an impact on your numbers, you can better decide what to do differently or where to focus your efforts.

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Make sales goals

You know what you sold last year, and where you had the greatest success. Now it’s time to build on those numbers in the new year. Think about the personal goals and upcoming expenses that you’ll need to cover. Would you like to give yourself a raise? Buy a new piece of equipment? Whatever you do, incorporating these costs into your goals will help you set more realistic targets while also giving you space to dream about the future.

Using the same monthly or seasonal landmarks that you used to track your previous sales, commit to some numbers you’d like to hit this time around. Assume that you’ll exceed what you made last year, but try to challenge yourself to make enough so you can meet a few of those financial goals by the end of the year.

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Develop a sales strategy

It’s not quite enough to write down those new, ambitious sales numbers and then cross your fingers (trust me, it’s been tried). But since you’ve already noted which events and promotions were successful for you, you’ll have an easier time creating a strategy for hitting your goals.

If selling merch on last year’s tour was a big money maker for you, think about how you can build on that: offer similar designs to your best selling t-shirt, or create a bundle of products that increases the average amount each customer spends.

Consider who you want to reach: Are you trying to acquire new customers or bring back repeat customers? This could decide if you’ll focus on newsletters and giveaways for current followers, or if you’ll invest in advertising and brand ambassadors.

And don’t forget to think about which part of the business excites you! If you’re psyched to sell a new type of product or experiment with a new market or festival, your enthusiasm will spread to your audience. One of the things they (and we!) love about you is that you’re not a robot or a big, faceless corporation. Wear your heart on your sleeve, do that new thing, and let your fans and friends rally around you.

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Hold yourself accountable

Write those goals down somewhere you’ll see them often. If you have a team, tell them what numbers you plan to hit. Folks can’t get excited about reaching a goal if they don’t know they exist. Use a calendar to put your sales strategy in action: “monthly newsletter” is arbitrary, but “send newsletter on June 14” is a deadline you’re likely to hit.

Plan regular check-ins to see if you’re hitting your goals. If you fall a little short, don’t panic, just make time for a brainstorm for new ideas to help get those numbers up. It’s not a moment to dread, it’s an opportunity to get creative, refresh your motivation, and keep on truckin’.

And for those sweet moments when you hit a goal, take a moment to celebrate! Reward yourself with an inspiring afternoon off, bring a dozen donuts to your team, high five your family - whatever lets you pause and appreciate a job well done.

Sarah Anderson

Marketing at Big Cartel. Loud talker, maker at City of Industry. Semi-professional aunt. Pretty psyched about all of it.

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